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Salt Spring Island Deer: Killing to Conserve

Cover Photo credit: Mark Schneider

Salt Spring Island is the most densely populated island in the Capital Regional District. The Salt Spring Island Conservancy was formed to protect, restore, enhance and maintain wildlife habitats and ecosystems on their seven nature reserves. Seven hundred acres of conservancy land represent 1% of Salt Spring Island’s land. These pockets of fiercely defended areas are an admirable attempt to keep housing development, animal agriculture and other business enterprises at bay.

Salt Spring Deer
1 of 7 nature reserves on Salt Spring Island

On November 4, 2017 the conservancy opened the Alvin Indiridson Nature Reserve to a local deer cull. This wasn’t the first time. The conservancy has declared indigenous black tailed deer a nuisance on their nature reserves. They have invited the local rod and gun club to kill deer on their lands annually since 2010. This year a notice was posted around the island by an unknown party. It served to highlight a completely unmanaged, unscientific deer cull.

Salt Spring Deer

On September 24, 2016 a letter to the Times Colonist by an island resident was critical of the conservancy’s deer cull, stating “The open invitation that has been extended to members of our local gun club on their website to kill animals for sport on conservancy property says: ‘A great arrangement – let’s take advantage of it.’ Personally, I doubt that the conservancy backers or the deer believe this is a “great arrangement.” – John Callas

A scientific count of deer on the island has never been conducted. A survey of residents’ attitudes regarding deer has never taken place.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation featured Salt Spring Island Conservancy in an article on their blog called “Natural Allies.” They asked the conservancy what prompted them to get together with the Rod and Gun club, and this was the answer:

“[Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation]! In response to this need for capacity, HCTF provided funding to cover staffing costs during the acquisition of the 320 acre Hope Hill Property, which is now known as the Alvin Indridson Nature reserve. In acknowledgement of the fact that HCTF funds come from hunting & angling licence fees, we made the commitment to allow hunting on the property. This was new ground for us. I am really excited about it because of the potential benefit that hunting could have on the Island’s deer situation. There is mounting evidence that an overabundance of deer can have a significant impact on everything from endangered plants to songbird populations, so for us to have a reserve where deer hunting is allowed is almost an ecological imperative.”

Salt Spring Deer
“Robin Annschild, Conservation Director of the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, takes aim beside John Foley, President of the SSI Rod & Gun Club” – Natural Allies blog post, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation

“However, it soon became apparent that we didn’t have the expertise within the Conservancy to manage a hunting reserve, and (naturally) we thought of the local Rod & Gun club.”

The conservancy has failed to research the very real consequences of culling deer. Compensatory rebound is a well-documented population dynamic that occurs when herd density is temporarily reduced through hunting. Removing large numbers of deer will produce a increase in the number of fawns born, with does reproducing at a younger age. Studies have proven that after a hunt surviving females produced enough offspring to not only replace those killed, but enough to actually increase the size of the herd. When a vacancy is created by a cull deer from surrounding areas will move into the area.

They have also failed to survey their donors regarding the morality of killing indigenous wildlife on a nature reserve.

The conservancy states on their website: “If, as author J.B. MacKinnon says, we now live in a 10% world – where humans have altered the ecology of about 90% of the planet – we think it’s sensible to set aside a good portion of the island for places where nature comes first, and where human beings bow to nature and alter their actions accordingly.”

By ignoring the science on the culling of deer the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, who hold in trust 1% of the land on the island, has committed the rest of Salt Spring Island to a permanent problem.

Kelly Carson

Victoria Animal News

About Kelly Carson

Kelly Carson is the founder of DeerSafe Victoria and president of the B.C. Deer Protection Society. Kelly is a contributor to the Victoria Animal News with years of writing and news release experience.
She is a life long animal activist and advocate in Victoria and abroad.

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5 comments

  1. How does a “nature preserve” turns its sanctuary into a private hunting preserve and maintain its credibility and public support?

  2. One landmark study that supports Kelly Carson’s assertions of compensatory rebound was a study conducted by the Dept of Wildlife and Range Sciences, School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida. They sampled deer from five separate sites: three hunted and two nonhunted. The study found that the incidence of twins being born to a pregnant doe was higher on hunted land than on non hunted land. The study found the incidence of twinning was 38% on hunted sites and 14% on nonhunted sites. No twinning was observed among pregnant fawns or yearlings from nonhunted areas, whereas…18% of the pregnant yearlings and…33% of the pregnant fawns from hunted areas carried twins.” (Reproductive Dynamics Among Disjunct White-tailed Deer Herds in Florida”, Journal of Wildlife Management, 1985).

    Laura Simon, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wildlife biologist writes: “One of the main problems with trying to manage deer through any kind of hunting or culling – as repeatedly cited during a Smithsonian Institute conference on Deer Overabundance (McShea et. al 1997) – is that deer are highly prolific, and their high reproductive rate can quickly compensate for declines in their population. They exhibit higher productivity (i.e. more twins and triplets are born, have higher survival rates, etc.) as their numbers lessen and more food becomes available for the remaining deer. In other words, they ‘bounce back’. … We do not see any evidence that hunting or culling works over the long-term.”

  3. “In acknowledgement of the fact that HCTF funds come from hunting & angling license fees, we made the commitment to allow hunting on the property.” And there you have it–when it comes to lethal wildlife “management”, follow the money. Thank you to Ms. Carson for bringing to light this sham. I hope that the conservancy will reevaluate its definition of science, since what they identify as such is the oldest, most transparent and flimsy defense used by those who enjoy killing animals for sport.

  4. What a very sad, but informative article. It drives me nuts that people ignore proven scientific facts such the compensatory rebound effect just so they can kill, kill, kill.

  5. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    *I had to correct a word. “with” to “without”

    I agree with you Amanda 100%. I pray this gets out into the public. They always try to justify their reason for killing, killing, killing. And the smile on her face makes me want to regurgitate! If they slowed down, they would figure out there are other ways to address these issues without killing.

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